The time the sun sets and dusk light envelops the city of Athens, Esperinos house merges with the evening shades.
The outlines of the light-blue facade and black steel gateway soften; the light in the interior of the house levels with the street lights; the objects, the materials – stone, concrete, terracotta, wood and steel -, the flora, all transform into a uniform ambient, a flickering landscape, to the point where the residence blends with the landscape of Philopappos hill, to the point where the street, the living quarters and backyard become one continuous space.
The new project by Athens based, self-taught artist-designer Stamos Michael, – undertitled hybrid design rental -, introduces a tactile and personal approach to short-staying in the city of Athens, one that revisits lapsing notions of inhabitation and the neighborhood, with a contemporary, informed gaze that disrupts the normative expectations of standard design forms.
Esperinos echoes Michael’s multi-faceted practice that combines studies in social sciences, working as an interior designer and founding the artist-run gallery Grace, in proposing a new way of experiencing the cultural universe of Athens. The design for the residence draws from urban myths and stories shared by the locals – nights in the 60’s when all the men would occupy the alley with chairs to watch a football match and the backyards would nest artists and folk musicians during the years of the Greek junta – to reflect a way of living that is unfolding on matters we now perceive as primal: communal love, freedom of expression and joy.
Esperinos is a single-storey townhouse made of stone, located in Filopappos Hill, a peaceful area of the Athenian center that carries a long history of culture. Typical of the beginning of 20th century Athenian houses’ configuration, the building features an austere, hermetic facade that faces the street, while the house opens up towards a backyard. The inhabitant enters the property through a gateway that brings them to a narrow pathway; the pathway leads either towards the interior, or towards the open space at the back of the house. The design for the house aims to pronounce this interesting relationship of public and private space even more highly. By removing the partitions of the original interior layout, Michael creates an organic flow of movements that connects the quiet, winding street of Philoppapos hill, to the living spaces; from the two wide windows of the facade, one can glimpse the trees in the backyard. To further accentuate the three dimensional experience of the space, the wooden arched roof is left bare and a mezzanine is introduced to host the sleeping quarters. The interior of the house is vested with humble materials and warm complimentary colors. The material selection is informed by the original materiality of the residence as much as from the living environments the designer has inhabited, to form an expressive language that speaks of a collective, idiosyncratic narrative. Concrete floors are contrasted by terracotta tiles – typical of Athenian ‘polykatoikia’ balconies and pavements – and white shades reminiscent of cycladic settlements. Custom made window frames and doors are combined with found elements, like a traditional window sill retrieved from a monastery in Tinos island. While the interior walls are finished in sleek shades of green and burgundy, the designer subtly introduces cut outs in the plaster to reveal the rough stone structure of the building and references 70’s residential building blocks in Athens through the circular cut outs at the mezzanine guardrail.
Esperinos features a selection of objects and furniture – a combination of Michael’s designs with iconic design items – that further foreground the space’s narrative. Most of the furniture, like the pine and plywood hand-painted cupboard that is tagged and sticker-bombed by fellow artists, the outdoor tables have been designed especially for Esperinos, while others, like the polished walnut chair and the steel lampshade that evoke architectural forms, have been selected from his past collections. Same like the two blocks of stone brought home from Tinos island’s quarries and put together to form a stool, Michael has selected the laid back Traffic lounge by Konstantin Grcic, a pair of late 20th century danish chairs by Bent Krogh as well as the iconic steel chairs by Robert Mallet Stevens to enter this polyphonic dialogue of collective histories; the furniture in Esperinos house are meant to be lived in and attest to the multi-layered environment that is Athens.
Esperinos house hosts an ever evolving collection of art and design works, as well as a program of in-house art events that run through the year and are curated by Grace. An independent art foundation operating in Athens since 2016, Grace collaborates with Esperinos to foreground the importance of engaging with the local contemporary scene.
Current collection includes artworks by
Despoina Charitonidi, Thodoris Fragkos, Alexia Karavela, Andreas Ragnar Kassapis, Spiros Kokkonis, Stamos Michael, Ilias Papailiakis, Panos Profitis, Nana Seferli, Giorgos Sikeliotis, Nikolaos Simantirakis, Alexandra Streshna.
Images © Margarita Nikitaki